During his career and throughout this campaign, Donald Trump has racked up an expansive list of hateful, vindictive and horrific statements. For almost a year and a half, I’ve cringed repeatedly at any number of claims that he’s leveled, but his most recent assaults against the integrity of our democratic process represent a clear and present danger to the United States and its citizens.
After so much loose talk and outright lies from the GOP candidate, it’s inviting to become numb and simply pine for an end to a political cycle that at times, has seemed to have none in sight. It’s no doubt tempting to hear and compartmentalize each new unhinged rhetorical flourish as “just another crazy thing Trump has said,” but we must be very clear about the disaster that he is inviting upon us.
We cannot simply look away. We can’t stay entranced. We can’t stay home – not when we have a candidate calling for the very destruction of our system of self-governance.
For weeks now, Trump has referred to Philadelphia as a hotbed for voter fraud – a shadowy place where “those people” will steal the election. He clearly has no idea how our elections are run here: the multiple layers of oversight or the thousands of committed citizens who volunteer their time to staff our polls. Through allegations, intimations and dog-whistling, he has encouraged his supporters to illegally intimidate voters at the polls, this after a summer of tacitly condoning and, in some instances, blatantly egging on, violence at his rallies.
Voltaire wrote, “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” We’ve endured the absurd this entire election – now Trump is asking his supporters to commit lasting damage to our democracy. He has laid bare his callous disregard for what actually makes America great, even as he waxes nostalgic about some mythical past that only he can reclaim for us.
As Ronald Reagan once said, in a 1964 speech in support of GOP presidential candidate Bary Goldwater – the Trump of his time – “Now is a time for choosing.” Will we embrace the values that have made this experiment in democracy possible, or will we be carried away by the capricious whims of this egomaniac? Will we defend our Constitution and the tenets of checks and balances, or will we elect a man who openly admires dictators and strongmen? Will we cling to blind party obligation or will we – as is our patriotic duty – renounce a terrifying and fact-free demagogue?
When Trump says he’ll keep Americans “in suspense” about whether he’d accept the results of the election, it is not just a swipe at Hillary Clinton; it is an assault on our way of life. It is an assault on the democracy our founders crafted right here in Philadelphia during a hot summer over 200 years ago, an experiment in self-governing that remains a model around the world.
We can build on this model, and make it more inclusive and fair, or we can turn over our future to a man who wants to be an autocrat, not president. In the birthplace of democracy we have a profound responsibility to defend it -- and to vote.
Malcolm Kenyatta is the member engagement coordinator for the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, and is a community leader who sits on the boards of numerous Philadelphia nonprofits.